“I love working with children because of the joy they bring to the world,” said Rachel Opatowsky, Baltimore Hebrew Congregation’s incoming director of education. “No day is ever the same, and they always keep you on your toes.”
Opatowsky will begin her new position in July, overseeing all aspects of BHC’s educational programs including Youth Education, Adult Education, and Family Education.
According to BHC Rabbi Andrew Busch, the search committee and leadership were “particularly taken by Rachel’s combination of professionalism and passion. She comes to us fully prepared and experienced as a synagogue director of education, having worked in the Hillel world as well.” Busch also commended Opatowsky’s “great sense of humor.”
One of Opatowsky’s most serious challenges will likely be the continuing danger posed by COVID-19. She said that BHC has done an excellent job in the transition to online education and that she plans to continue digital platform use should the virus remain a threat.
“This may include things like virtual scavenger hunts, cooking classes, dancing lessons, Hebrew through movement, and more,” she said. “We will aim to connect our families to Baltimore Hebrew Congregation and each other in these trying times.”
Opatowsky said that her main responsibility is to “build relationships with families, children, faculty, and other members of our congregational community. … My goal is to maintain BHC’s flexible and creative approach to Youth Education while continuing to develop innovative offerings and curriculum.”
Opatowsky hopes to further grow BHC’s Youth Education program, which she said has had great success over the previous decade. She also spoke of instituting a new family retreat program, in which families would come together with BHC staff at a camp or retreat center. Such a program, she said, would include religious services and programs for both adults and children.
“Allowing families to have these educational experiences together will strengthen their familial relationship as well as their relationship with Baltimore Hebrew Congregation,” she said.
Opatowsky has a master’s degree in education from American Jewish University in Los Angeles. She worked in the educational field for 12 years at different points as a teacher, youth group adviser, resident adviser, and Hillel director.
“My experience in diverse educational settings sets me up for nothing but success as I continue on my path as a Jewish educator,” she said.
BHC’s outgoing director of education, Brad Cohen, will be moving to Denver, Colorado, to be closer to family, Busch said.
Busch commended Cohen for being “an outstanding and visionary educational leader for BHC. Our programs have grown and flourished during his decade-long tenure. … We understand and wish them well in their relocation, [are] sad to see him depart, and are excited about Rachel’s arrival.”
“Working in education provides me with the opportunity to not only educate our youth but to inspire them to be good people,” Opatowsky said. “I am honored that parents entrust me to help guide their children on their Jewish journey and to help shape them into the people of tomorrow.”